Indian Pre-Summer

It was the Hindu festival of Diwali yesterday and Tress and I weren’t planning on doing anything to particularly sync with that event but somehow we ended doing a number of “Indian” things.

We caught up with Jason and Mel on Friday night. They often come up to our side of town to catch up so when we were making the arrangements we thought it fair they get to pick the place this time. The picked the Elephant Corridor, a Sri Lankan joint in the popular Glen strip. We had a good time just eating and talking, only slightly soured by the restaurant’s practice of having 2 dining sessions and we were hurried out when it was just after 8pm.

We spent much of Saturday cleaning. Tress vacuumed and cleaned the inside of the house and I took care of the outside – hedges cut, lawn trimmed and grounds swept. It was a glorious day for outdoor works though and so I had the more enjoyable task. House cleaned, we spent the evening at Hipo’s for Jesslyn’s birthday. Alex and family, Jason and Mel and Penny and Vincent were all there too – familiar and old friends made conversations easy and fun. Alex brought along a bottle of Dewar’s 18 year old so that made conversations even easier and more fun.

Sunday we were on communion duty and it was a bit daunting at the end when I ended up serving Peter the senior minister. It is often the practice that at the end of the communion, those on duty would serve each other and Peter was at the back in the foyer where we did our serving. When I held up the cup for Peter, I took special care to ensure I said the words clearly and accurately.

After church we drove out to Knoxfield to pick up some honey, and had lunch in a wonderful Indian restaurant. We had wanted to go to the Straits Café as it was nearer the place where we picked up the honey but it was crowded and Tress noticed this Indian restaurant next door. The food was delicious and it was only later we realised we had eaten Indian twice this weekend, when we hardly ate Indian at other times.

After lunch we headed to Glen Waverley to pick up the car we agreed to buy and spent some time talking to the wonderful Indian couple we bought it from.

Back home, I should have cooked dhal curry to finish off the Indian themed weekend but I had bought stuff to do my usual chicken/mushroom rice casserole thing. After walking LBJ, Tress did the ironing while I cooked. I’m glad it’s the Cup weekend because that means we only return to work for a day before we get a day off, and the day would be quiet in the office. If there was horse with an Indian sounding name running tomorrow, I’d surely put some money on it.


Drenched Fete, Used Wheels

Tress and I had an early start – for a Saturday – to a diabolically wet and dirty day. We were up just after 6, and headed out the door by 7am. We stopped at Macca’s for a dirty brekky and (surprisingly pleasant) coffee.

The Manningham Salvos were having their annual fete and Tress and I were there as volunteers. The day was a washout however. It was one of those cold, grey and diabolically wet day where the rain just belted down, dumping up to 30-40mm in some parts of Melbourne. 

At the vast car park of the Manningham Salvos I was about to start the engine of the 12 seater “bus” when I thought I’d better check my phone. True enough there was a text. The student volunteers I was meant to pick up from Blackburn Station were running late. So Tress and I stayed behind to help the others set up. Tress helped in the kitchen to set up meals and snacks for sale, I helped move a barbeque, marquees, and generally cleared space for stalls to be set up.
My principal duties as a volunteer however were around driving. I picked a batch of students at 8.30am. When I dropped them off at the parish it started to rain. I did odd and ends and then drove to Vermont South to pick up some balloons for a clown who was coming later that morning. It may all be in the eastern suburbs but it takes a full 25 minutes from Doncaster to Vermont South, one way. Balloons picked up and dropped off, I was off again this time to an elderly’s home in Box Hill.

 Elgar Homes looked old and tired and a few of its residents were excited to be out for a day, away from what was probably a monotonous ground hog experience. They were elderly and looked and behaved in a way that could only be described as frail. Getting up the two steps into the bus a painstaking, laborious and time consuming task for most of them. I tried to help as much as I could but I very quickly learned I was not trained to do this job and I had to keep adapting and thinking how best to meet their needs. I wanted to make it as pleasant an afternoon as possible for as many of them as possible. 

As challenging as it was I have to say it gave me immense satisfaction when I heard them chatting amongst themselves, as I drove them up Elgar Road towards Doncaster Road, up Victoria Street towards the parish on Taunton Street. They were saying how good it was to get out, what a trip it would be and they were looking forward to eating different foods at the fete. I had a quiche and a sausage and while it was a good feed I have to say I need to re-check my values as I had said to Tress they were very ordinary fares. When I dropped them off back at the home later that afternoon it was again bucketing down and I could tell they were appreciative of the day out they had. It was probably the most satisfying part of my day.

When we left the parish Tress felt knackered and back home, she made us both some toasts and eggs – she wanted a nice meal at home and feel at rest – and we then just sat and rested.

 On Sunday, in dealing with chapter 4 of Exodus as a part of a new series on that book, Peter gave a very good sermon, particularly that but about making a connection between Exodus and oppression and social justice. It was more about God and His work around a covenantal relationship with Israel – a specific story – than it was about oppression in general.

After church we went to Glen Waverley to look at a car. Kiddo had wanted the Camry and I was happy to look for a small used car, just to get to the station and back every day. We found this old but low mileage easy maintenance car. The owners were a very mild mannered elderly Indian couple who had bought the car new when they migrated from India more than 10 years ago. They had kept the car all these years, as we have our Camry. We agreed to get it from them and then went home to do our usual Sunday cooking. 

Back home I said to Tress that last week we bought another house, in Canberra. This week we bought another car. I hope that is the last of our big ticket item purchases. I feel like we’re only taking the first steps of what looks like a long but interesting journey with Kiddo and Mic.

Why Tram 12 didn’t show

On most days a bit after 5 I’d take that short walk up Ross Street, turn left at Clarendon and walk towards tram stop 127. Tram 12 takes a few minutes to arrive to take a hoard of workers into town. The tram heads to Victoria Gardens but I get off at Collins/Spencer and walk up to Southern Cross station to take the commuter train out east.

Yesterday however, Tram 12 didn’t show. It was blowie, a bit warm and I have had a long day so I didn’t feel like walking into town. A cab showed up before long and I hailed it down. I invited the colleague I had met at the tram stop to jump in that cab with me. It turned out to be very informative ride.

The cabbie casually asked if I was catching the sky bus into the airport. It must have been the suit I was wearing. And that big backpack. I said no, just suburban train back home and I asked if he was a Punjabi, thinking we could have a quick conversation about faith, as the Sikh temple in Blackburn is often a talking point. He said he was a Pakistani. I said that means he is unlikely a Sikh and more likely a Muslim. He said he was a Muslim. He wasn’t interested in religion however and in a flash, he started talking about Chinese investments in Pakistan.

The Chinese Pakistan Economic Corridor is a 50+ billion-dollar infrastructure project. It takes one from Gwadar, purportedly one of the deepest ports of the world and a Pakistani gateway to the Arabian Sea and beyond, deep into western China in the regions of the Uighurs in Xinjiang. I listened with great curiosity as no one had ever told me about the “CPEC” with such passionate enthusiasm. I said to him it sounded like a modern day silk road and he nodded vigorously at me to signal his approval that this oriental gets it as he continued talking about how the Americans and Indians hate this project but the Iranians and Afghans love it.

This morning I had been working for a couple of hours when that colleague who was in that cab with me, got in and we chatted for a bit. She asked if I looked up CPEC as I promised the cabbie I would. I said I did and she said she too, jumped on Google last night and checked it out.

I had said to the cabbie, just before I alighted from his cab, that there was a reason why Tram 12 didn’t show up and I had to take his cab. It was so I know about CPEC. That cab fare was worth every cent.

Earning one’s sleep

Tress’ new workplace is in a really nice area. On Friday night we had dinner at the Café Oggi, which is in the commercial corner of Springvale and Burwood Highway. As always, it was lovely to just sit and talk over some good food and a bottle of wine to finish the week.

It has been a big week of sorts again. We signed up to purchase that townhouse Kiddo liked, which is only a 5-7 minutes’ drive to the Caroline Chisolm secondary college. This means our back burner plans of getting a smaller property – ideally a 3-bedroom unit in a 2-unit development – is taken off the stove altogether. This purchase completes in 60 days so a couple of weeks or so before Christmas, Kiddo and Mic can start to plan their new abode and we’d have a temporary place to stay if we visit before April next year.

With that big week sort of tied up, we took out time on Friday night and after dinner we walked through the pathways along the lakes and ponds surrounding the Vic Roads, World Vision and various other offices.

We did a bit of gardening on Saturday morning. The tiny bits of hedges on our eastern side of the property had grown terribly tall on the neighbour’s side for a while now. So I took some tools and asked permission to get into the neighbour’s backyard. Sharon was not anywhere to be seen and her daughter looked like she was in a hurry to leave the house but she worked out how to open the side gate eventually and so I didn’t have to go through their lounge and dining areas to get to the backyard.

I later said to Tress I wonder how one can accumulate so much stuff and leave so little real estate to walk through. The house is teeming with clutters and they even had a little rabbit in the lounge, all kitted up with a rabbit home and fence around him, all in the middle of the lounge. In the backyard, I had trouble with finding a footing for the ladder as again it was littered with stuff. I did what I could and got most of the overgrowth trimmed. I later did the front hedges on the western side too. It was a warmish blowie sort of a day so just around noon, having put in a couple of hours of work I decided it was enough so we cleaned up and headed to Madam K’s for lunch.

After lunch it was grocery shopping. We took our time. Back home I marinated the chicken which I’d cook the next day for the week’s lunches for both Tress and I. I then took the little black jedi for a walk – it was still very gusty but it was warm and a bit sunny so the walk was nice. Later that night we watched a Netflix documentary. It was about an old Japanese sushi chef named Jiro. His story is a reminder that expertise and perfection is often a result of repeated detailed practice of one’s craft or work. Too often we ask what appears to be important questions – about making a difference, about passion, about chasing one’s dreams – when the truly important thing is probably just putting your head down to get on with the work, day in and day out, week in and week out, and year in and year out. Honest persistent work appears to have been traded in for the promise of passionate excitement of chasing one’s dreams.

We went to bed early as the day’s outdoor work made sleep a very welcomed activity.
On Sunday it was an “all-age” service and after the service we caught up with Stephen Sim who had been unwell but showed up in church anyway. Stephen again said to some people (Peter Fagg and Tanya) that we helped him by mentioning St Alf’s to him when we first met a few years ago. He had also said this to Peter MacPherson before and Peter mentioned it to us. I honestly do not remember that but if that is the reason he has been to church then I guess God does work without us knowing about it or being conscious of it. We then sat in for a Q&A on some proposals for joint activities with another parish (St Luke’s on Canterbury/Mitcham Roads). When that was done we caught up with Jason and Mel at Wai Heng’s and spent a couple of hours over a very delicious prawn noodles by Wai Heng and we talked. It was very good catching up with old friends and listening to their experiences and their acknowledgement of God in their journey.

When we came home I planted some iris which some folks had left in church for anyone to pick up. The front eastern side had a couple of dead plants and we have been thinking about replacing them so the iris looked like a good option. We later learned iris needs lots of sunlight and that front side of our house doesn’t have the best light so we’d have to see how the plants go. Plants in the ground and watered, I went in and we did the cooking for the week’s lunches. We later watched some TV (The Block) before going to bed, early again. I think all week we have been going to bed around 9pm. I wonder if that has to do with us getting older or simply grinding through each day and feeling the need to hit the sack as early as possible for a good shut eye.

KL – Old House(s) and Canberra – New Home (for Kiddo)

I often say to people I don’t like travelling for work.

Once upon a time I did.

It was exciting when I travelled for work for the first time, even if it was just a trip to Singapore. I was with a law firm who was asked to travel with a property developer flogging high end condos to rich Singaporeans. We went down for the parade and there were some sales clogged up so I guess that was a successful trip.

Later when I was with the fledgling investment banking outfit that was Phileo, I travelled – to South East Asia, UK and the US. I continued travelling to Singapore intermittently through my entire work life in KL. That was then.

Since uprooting from KL to replant in Oz, I have not liked travelling for work. I had to travel to Sydney and Adelaide in my previous jobs but never overseas. So a couple of weeks ago when I was asked to travel to an overseas branch operation, I had mixed feelings. I still didn’t like travelling for work but I was asked to go to the Malaysian operations of my employer. I was asked to visit KL. Such irony.

So last week I left Melbourne on late Saturday night. Tress dropped me off at the airport around 9pm. Night flights aren’t my thing but my boss had approved business class travel so it made for easier path. I got into KL the next morning – Sunday morning. After managing an early check-in to my hotel in KL I took a commuter train down to Klang and caught up with the family.

Jean Mih picked me up from the Klang train station and we caught up with the rest of the Chew clan in their favourite Sunday restaurant, the Hai Tien Lou. Uncle Mak and wife and their son Lawrence and an old auntie (Lau 3 Kim) were there with Tress’ parents, sister and nephews and niece. We talked, ate and went back to the house in Berkeley and later that arvo Jin Mih dropped me off at my mum’s.

Mei’s younger boy, Yu Jie, was unwell when I got there and not long after, mum, Yu Yang (Stanley) and I took him to the doctor. He was nursing a fever and with fears of dengue and zika, they did a blood test for him. Thankfully he was clear and later that night David, Jean and Nicole our niece joined us at mum’s for dinner. As always, it was good to talk and catch up. It was the first time I saw my brother since he was taken ill on New Year’s Day this year. He and Jean then dropped me off at the hotel before taking Nicole back to Subang Jaya, where she had commenced a matriculation/foundational course of studying. Nicole had done really well for her O Levels and aspires to study medicine.

It was then work for me from then on. I stayed at the Aloft Hotel in KL, which was very convenient. It was a 5-10 minute walk to the office, a 5 minute walk to KL central station which was a hub connecting the city monorail, commuter trains as well as the airport express rail service. I had taken the rail service coming in from the airport and found it very convenient. Malaysia, KL have come a long way in that sense. The hotel is also only a 5 minute walk to an adjoining shopping centre (the Nu Sentral) as well as a further 10 minute walk to a local hawker stalled coffee shop. I went there every day for my hawker fares and felt thoroughy satisfied each time. I would also swim every morning on the rooftop pool before heading into the office and it was warm water so that was terrific.

During that work week I caught up with a couple of ex colleagues and then again with David my brother who was a frequent visitor to that hotel, working on the benches in that hotel lobby’s funky connected hub concept.

The talks with the family, particularly with my mum and brother, were mainly focused on Kiddo’s recent announcement of her wedding with Mic. They were all very excited about coming down to Oz for that occasion and we discussed very broad plans for April next year.

I left the office on Thursday arvo, checked out of the hotel and headed to the airport late on Thursday and got back into Melbourne on Friday. By the time I got into Blackburn it was late morning/towards noon. I unpacked, did my laundry, fussed with LBJ and impatiently waited for Tress to return from work. She had started with World Vision a week before and was still relatively relaxed so when she got home early we went to our favourite local Italian, the Via Matta, for a different sort of dinner. Italian is probably the closest European cuisine to Chinese so it was a wonderfully pleasant transition back to local fares for me 

On the day before I left KL, Kiddo, Tress and I had been exchanging messages and emails with a real estate agent in Canberra. Kiddo found a house in Monash in the ACT, somewhere close to the school she would be teaching south of Tuggeranong. Tress and I made an offer for that house, which was accepted and as I write, Tress and I are awaiting the contract for our first little investment property outside Victoria. It would be the second time Tress signed up to but a property before seeing it…